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(Victor Decolongon/2011 Getty Images)
(Victor Decolongon/2011 Getty Images)

NHL Notebook

Pacific Division making serious playoff push Add to ...

It also represented a six-point swing with each of the two teams currently breathing down their necks in ninth and 10th spot, Dallas and Calgary. If the Ducks make it, it'll be because of the cardiac nature of those comebacks.

Selanne, meanwhile, had two more goals in the loss to Nashville, giving him 25 goals for the season (in only 65 games). At the age of 40, he is now 11th in the overall scoring race and - as noted in a column back in December, likely to become only the fourth player in NHL history to score 80 or more points after turning 40. Gordie Howe did it twice; Johnny Bucyk once.

Nice company and hopefully a sign that Selanne will push his retirement plans back another year. Makes no sense to leave now, when he can still dominate play at times.

ROAD KILL: Hiller, the Ducks' goaltender who'd carried them at different stages of the season, had a rough outing in his return to the lineup Thursday, after missing 15 games with vertigo and/or dizziness. He was roughed up early for three goals by Nashville, looked rusty and mercifully got the hook from coach Randy Carlyle. With Dan Ellis and Ray Emery both playing okay in goal for the Ducks, it will be interesting to see when - or if - they go back to Hiller, with so much on the line here down the stretch.

THE RACE IS ON: For an award that the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos appeared to have in his hip pocket back in the last week of January, or just before the NHL all-star break. It was Jan. 26, and Stamkos was running away with the Rocket Richard trophy, as the NHL's goal-scoring leader. He had 38, Sidney Crosby was second with 32, and from there, it dropped down to Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin, deadlocked at 27. But Stamkos has hit a dry spell of late - only three goals in his past 19 games, 43 overall right now, which is just one more than the Ducks' surging Corey Perry, who has moved up to second spot with 42 goals, having scored 17 times in that span. And Daniel Sedin, at 40, has a shot at the crown as well. Stamkos is pressing a little - as he did once earlier in the season, when he went into an early December funk as the team toured Western Canada. It doesn't help that Tampa has been playing without two top-six forwards, Steve Downie and Ryan Malone, both out with injuries, which has permitted teams to focus strictly on Stamkos and Martin St. Louis for shutdown purposes. Downie could return as early as tonight, the beginning of a home-and-home with Carolina.

HURRICANE WATCH: Speaking of Carolina, Hurricanes' goaltender Cam Ward probably won't get a lot of Vezina Trophy attention this year, just because his stats are middle of the pack. But there is little doubt that even as Eric Staal has had another fine year, and Jeff Skinner has been a revelation as an NHL rookie, without Ward, the Hurricanes wouldn't be in the playoff hunt.

CAP MINDING: The Washington Capitals pass through Ottawa and Montreal tonight and tomorrow, completing a six-game road trip that also began in Montreal back on the 15th - and with a lineup that will bear only a reasonable facsimile to the one they hope to open the playoffs with. For starters, both Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott, figure to be back by next weekend, and thus get in a week's worth of game action before postseason starts. There is the matter of sorting out a starting netminder - Michal Neuvirth gets the call vs. Ottawa, Semyon Varlamov is expected to go Saturday vs. the Habs on Hockey Night In Canada. Injuries have limited Varlamov to just 24 appearances for the Caps this season, but he has 19 games of NHL playoff experience under his belt over the past two years - a cumulative 10-9 record and a respectable 2.49 goals-against average. Given that Washington's commitment to defence in those two playoffs cannot compare to the more responsible style of play they've adopted this year, you'd have to think Varlamov will get the same consideration that Jose Theodore did a year ago - a chance to start, but knowing that he's probably on a short leash and needs to be good right off the get-go. The one lingering question in Washington is the same one they're asking about Crosby in Pittsburgh: What are the chances that the concussed Mike Green will be available for postseason play? Green, a two-time Norris Trophy finalist, has just 24 points in 49 games and has missed 18 of the past 20 games, as a result of two separate incidents - one in which he got hit in the head by a puck (Feb. 6 vs. Pittsburgh) and then soon after his return, when he was hit by Rangers' rookie Derek Stepan. Did he come back too soon? Who knows? But the Caps are taking their time this time and stressing that the most important thing is for Green to get completely healthy, same as they're saying in Pittsburgh with Crosby. Ideally, the Caps would like to get him for their final two games of the season, a home-and-home with Florida.

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